My guest today is John Desjarlais. A former producer with Wisconsin Public Radio, John teaches journalism and English at Kishwaukee College in northern
. His first novel, The Throne
of Tara (Crossway 1990, re-released 2000), was a Christianity Today Readers
Choice Award nominee, and his medieval thriller, Relics (Thomas Nelson 1993,
re-released 2009) was a Doubleday Book Club Selection. Bleeder and Viper
(Sophia Institute Press, 2009 and 2011 respectively) are the first two entries
in a contemporary mystery series. Illinois
His work has appeared in periodicals such as Student Leadership Journal, U Magazine, The Critic, Conclave, On Being, Student Soul, Apocalypse, The Upper Room, The New Pantagruel, The Karitos Review, Dappled Things and The Rockford Review. A member of The Catholic Writers Guild, The Academy of American Poets and Mystery Writers of America, he is listed in Contemporary Authors, Who's Who in Entertainment, and Who's Who Among America's Teachers.
Anne - Welcome, John. Let’s talk writing! When did you first realize you were destined to be a writer?
John - In junior high school I wrote spy novels on a portable typewriter in the basement. They were in homage to all the espionage stories of the day: James Bond, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers, I Spy, all that. Of course, the novels were awful but I got the bug. I showed some material to my high school English teacher and she didn’t laugh or criticize but instead gave me a little stack of ‘The Writer’ magazine. I still have them.
Anne – I’m always envious when I hear about a teenage writer, and even more envious when they mention a mentor. Kudos to you and your teacher! Tell us about your book.
John - VIPER features a minor character from the first book, BLEEDER –
insurance agent Selena De La
Cruz. Haunted by the loss of her brother to drugs and a botched raid that ended
her career with the DEA, Selena De La Cruz hoped to start afresh in rural Latina . But her gung-ho former boss
needs her back to hunt “The Snake,” a dealer she helped arrest who is out of
prison and systematically killing anyone who ever crossed him. His ‘hit list’,
appended to a Catholic Church’s All Souls Day ‘Book of the Deceased,’ shows
Selena’s name last. Illinois
Working against time, small town prejudice and the suspicions of her own Latino community, Selena races to find The Snake before he reaches her name while a girl visionary claims a “Blue Lady” announces each killing in turn. Is it Our Lady of Guadalupe, as many in the Mexican community believe, or, as others believe, the Aztec goddess of Death?
Anne - So it’s part of a series. What do you enjoy most about writing a series? What part do you loathe?
John - The best part is having continuing characters that you care about and the opportunity to deepen them over a longer arc, exploring their relationships. You don’t need to start from scratch. You already have a cast to work with. A difficulty with it – not something to loathe, though – is keeping track of what has happened before and making sure the characters’ backstories are consistent. In the third book that I’m working on now, I needed to write out a timeline for Selena’s life, so I’d know how old she was at a certain time, when she went to college and that sort of thing. There are childhood incidents I refer to in the second book and so now I’m committed – it’s in print and I cannot undo anything.
Anne – Of all the characters you’ve created, does one hold a special place in your heart? Why?
John - Clearly it is Selena, the fiery Mexican-American who can be both tomboy-tough and tender, an independent Latina working hard to navigate her way in a man’s world and struggling to come to terms with her bicultural identity. She drives a ’69 Dodge Charger and is handy with a P226 SIG Sauer pistol but she also paints and volunteers for literacy programs. She knows when she needs to dress in loud taffeta and hoop ear rings with flashy heels and fire-engine red lipstick and when to wear the charcoal Ann Taylor suit with pearls and pumps and sandpiper gloss - when to be Latina and when to be Angla.
Anne – She sounds like a fabulous person. I can see why anyone would be drawn to her. Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?
John - Don’t give up. Hone your craft. Read, read, read. Learn the business (and it’s changing dramatically these days). Attend a writer’s conference geared toward your genre. Make an appointment with yourself to write regularly and treat it like a job. Think of yourself as a writer. Read, read, read.
Anne - Where can readers find you online?
John - At me website: http://www.johndesjarlais.com. They can also visit my blog Johnny Dangerous http://jjdesjarlais.blogspot.com, plus I'm on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jdesjarlais1
Anne – Thank you so much for talking writing today, John. I wish you every success with Viper, and of course, happy writing!
As always comments are welcome and appreciated. Happy reading!
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